Friday, July 26, 2013

The Art of Education Update and Invitation

A few months back, I began writing a new blog for my educational advising service, Thrivapy. That blog, The Thrivapy Blog, has developed a similar tone and message to the articles I shared here on The Art of Education.

Initially, I struggled with what to do with The Art of Education and have tried to find a place for updating this blog in my schedule. What I have found is that I cannot with the regularity that I expect from myself. In other words, my work here on The Art of Education cannot meet my minimum standard of expectations.

Therefore, I want to announce that I am taking a break from The Art of Education for an undecided amount of time. This will allow me to focus more on my full time work as a Head of Middle School, write for The Thrivapy Blog, work on my next book, and serve the limited number of clients I have for Thrivapy.

Oh yes, and be a father and husband!

I am NOT deleting this blog. I believe it contains a valuable record of my work and a number of useful resources for students, parents, and teachers. As a matter of fact, I intend to republish my more popular articles from The Art of Education on The Thrivapy Blog.

I want to thank all of you who visit The Art of Education and invite you to join me at The Thrivapy Blog.

Now, back to work....

Monday, July 8, 2013

3 Reasons to Help Students Set Goals

There are many reasons why setting goals helps one find greater success. However, when it comes to helping students set goals, there are three benefits that can go unnoticed.

1. Relationship building

One of the more important characteristics of successful students is the nature of their student/teacher relationships. Engaging with students in goal setting provides an opportunity to help students outside of the usual classroom setting. This interaction can help enhance your relationship with students, especially if you take a FRITR (Friendly, Responsive, Interactive, Reliable) approach.
2. Foundational clarity

Helping students articulate their goals ultimately requires some reflection on mission, beliefs, and vision. These foundational elements provide a sense of purpose in school, what success looks like without barriers to achievement, and a set of values upon which you are willing to take action. Clarity on all of these points helps bring specific, actionable goals to the forefront of the conversation.
3. Partnership platform

Setting goals with students also provides a platform from which you can strengthen your partnership with parents. Sharing goals with parents and engaging with them to be on the watch for progress helps surround students with another layer of support. Also, once benchmarks are met, you can partner to celebrate progress.

Goal setting, on the surface, may seem easy. However, it takes an investment in time and patience to guide students towards goals that are specific, flexible, challenging, and realistic. Once those goals are articulated (and committed to), the benefits mentioned above are more likely to appear.
This post first appeared on The Thrivapy Blog on May 20, 2013.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Estimating Completion For Time Management

When working with students, especially in middle and high school, time management almost always becomes a topic of discussion. There is much asked of students today. When you factor in school life, home life, and social life, the "to do" list can seem overwhelming. One tip I offer is for students to assign an estimated time for completion (ETC) for each assignment.

For example, if a student gets a project with a future due date, she should take a few minutes to go over the project requirements and make an educated guess on how long it will take HER to complete the project. The important part here is HER timeline, not how long it should take the class. By applying a personalized ETC, the student can then fill in her schedule so that she meets the teacher's deadline without rushing to finish on the night before it is due.

The same process can work well on regular nightly assignments. In a previous article, I advised students to add "When?" and "Where?" to "What?" and "How?" for every assignment. Having an ETC will support an appropriate answer to "When?" because it forces the student to factor time into the process.

Time management is a difficult skill for many students (and adults!) to master. In the rush to keep up with the demands of life and school, time is an often overlooked factor in planning and execution. By taking a few moments to estimate how long an assignment or obligation might take you to complete, you can give yourself an advantage against last minute cramming and/or turning in work that is less than satisfactory.

This article originally appeared on The Thrivapy Blog (May 7, 2013).

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

When Waiting Until Tomorrow Might Be Better

Trying to stay organized or "in front" of the many demands on your time can be quite challenging. Because of this, it is easy to understand the wisdom behind never leaving until tomorrow things you can do today. However, there are times when waiting is probably your best course of action.

Here are a few examples.

Responding to an emotionally charged email

We all get them. An email from someone that elicits an immediate negative emotional response. Your reading of the message makes you feel under attack and defensive. Your natural response is to fire back a similar message defending your position and pointing out how the other person is wrong.

In almost every situation, writing and sending your emotionally motivated email will not only NOT help, but also make the situation worse.

Instead, draft your response to allow yourself to vent. The emphasis here is on DRAFT. Do not send it. Wait a day or so to allow your initial feelings to subside and read your draft. Measure your draft against your goals and the role your relationship with the sender plays in accomplishing your goals. Edit your response accordingly. If after two or three emails, the issue isn't resolved,  it may be time to invite the person for a face to face meeting.

Checking messages late in the evening

One habit with which I struggle is checking messages late in the evening. I have never received a message later in the day that I could effectively address before going to bed. On the other hand, I have read plenty of messages (either good news or bad) that have kept me most of the night. The result: lack of sleep and diminished ability to focus the next day - when I actually need to address the message!

Sure, technology makes staying communication easier and we are essentially connected 24/7. However, that doesn't mean you need to be immediately available and "on" 24/7. There is tremendous value in "unplugging" and taking time for yourself and your family. If it is an emergency, someone will call you. Emails are rarely, if ever, true emergencies.

Finishing a project for the sake of finishing it

Establishing your minimum level of satisfaction is a piece of advice I often give. This means that with any work you do, establish your personal minimum acceptable standard for satisfaction for that project - and hold yourself to that standard. Following this path helps build independence, responsibility, and ownership. You may be tempted to "set the bar" low, but remember that in a connected society your work is most valuable when you are able to share it for the benefit of others. Poor quality that is accepted because you simply want to move will get poor feedback. This can either be in the form of grades on a test or comments by customers. Either way, a connected world values those who have quality to share.

If you cannot put in the effort today to meet your standard of satisfaction, it is probably better to wait until tomorrow.  Of course, this does not exempt you from meeting deadlines. Part of your acceptable level of satisfaction needs to include proper planning and time management. My advice is, when given a task, knowing when and where you are going to do it is as important as knowing how. Having all three of those pieces in place provides a great foundation to get quality work done on time.

Having a goal is only part of the equation. You also need to take action. Depending on what you are ultimately trying to accomplish, the best action today may be to take no action at all.

A version of this article was originally published on The Thrivapy Blog on May 2, 2013.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

"Better" Thinking for Greater Student Ownership

Anyone who reads either this blog or The Thrivapy Blog, knows I am a big advocate of growth mindsets and the potential impact "get better" thinking has on student achievement. This is one reason why having a growth mindset is one of the seven principles of Thrivapy. One of the many reasons why I encourage "better" thinking over "be the best" thinking is how well "better" relates to developing ownership and responsibility (taking ownership is also one of the seven Thrivapy principles).

"Be the best" thinking depends on comparing one's performance against another group or another individual. As a former athlete and coach, I have no problem keeping score to measure wins and losses, but when it comes to personal development, which is what school is supposed to support, measuring against others to determine gains presents an obvious problem - you have no control over how well someone else performs. You only can control your own efforts. Measuring against someone else not only can make a great effort on your part seem less important than it really is, but having another person in the equation provides a student with an easy excuse for their performance, especially if it was less than satisfying.

Excuses are "anti-ownership missiles"!

If you want to build ownership and responsibility, try "better" thinking. Using this mindset, there is only the student and her efforts to evaluate progress. Progress is measured purely against one's own results over time. If things go well and progress is seen, it is easier to highlight that progress without another's "score" visible. If things do not go as well as expected, there is no built in excuse to deflect responsibility.

Learn from the experience and try again with a new lesson learned and a better ideas of how to be more successful next time.

A version of this article was originally published at The Thrivapy Blog on April 23, 2013.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Strengthen Parent-Teacher Relationships by Asking These 3 Questions

Parents play a significant role in the success of a student. As a important member of the student's learning team, parents should be informed and appropriately involved in their child's school experience. However, this role takes different forms as students mature and move through different developmental stages. As a result, the nature of parent involvement also changes, which can lead to misunderstanding and an unnecessary strain on the parent/teacher relationship.

Recently, a parent of a school aged child ask me about how to establish a better partnership with his child's teacher. I suggested that the parent engage in a conversation with the teacher using the questions below as a guide.

1. How can I, as a parent, best support your work as the teacher?

2. What should I expect in terms of development from my child this year?

3. What are your expectations of my child in terms of effort?

These questions not only allow the key developmental issues to emerge as the basis of the conversation, but also recognize and respect the fact that the parent is the expert on their child and the teacher is the expert on the instruction.

This article was originally published on The Thrivapy Blog (4/16/2013)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Wealth of Knowledge

The wealth of knowledge does not have anything to do with having A wealth of knowledge.


Because knowledge kept to oneself serves little purpose and has virtually no value to anyone other than the holder of the information. The value (wealth) of knowledge is not based on having it. Rather, the value of knowledge is found in sharing it.

Value is created when someone is willing to give something in exchange for something else. The currency can be money, goods in kind, attention, time, etc. Having knowledge does not create value, making your knowledge available so others can improve their own understanding adds to the collective wisdom and, thus, has value - especially in a world where the long tail affects practically all markets (including knowledge).

In essence, the wealth of knowledge is directly linked to the sharing of knowledge, not the storage of knowledge. This act of sharing also creates knowledge for those who were previously less informed.

For those looking to assign value to their educational experience, this logic suggests that reflecting on the opportunities to share and create knowledge may be a good place to start.

Originally published on The Thrivapy Blog on April 11, 2013.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Starting Your Class With Clarity And Purpose

In the same amount of time it takes you to read this post, you can start each class with clarity and purpose which, in return, leads to better student engagement and focus.

The formula is simple.
  1. Recall what has happened.
  2. Explain the current situation.
  3. Provide a vision for the day.
  4. Give a reminder of what is yet to come.
Recall what has happened

Talk with students about what the class did in its most recent meeting. Give a brief progress report on the topic or project the class is currently discovering. Using a map analogy, this is when you show the group where you have already been and what you have done to get where you are.

Explain the current situation

Using the same map analogy, this is where you mark your current location. In class, a statement telling students where you believe the class is, in terms relative to the topic or project at hand, provides their current location.

Provide a vision for the day

The vision for the day is articulated in positive terms and describes the ideal progress you expect given the time you have in class that day. In other words, "Here is what we can accomplish today..."

Give a reminder of what is yet to come

This final suggestion gives the students a preview and/or reminder of what remains once class ends that day. This step helps put the day's vision in perspective and keeps students focused on the long term goal as well as the daily goal. This step is also useful at the end of class.

A strong start provides the foundation for a clear and purposeful class which is a key component to student engagement.

This post was originally published at The Thrivapy Blog.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Helping Students Take Action and Develop Resilience

A goal without taking action is, essentially, a wish, a hope, or a dream. That is why setting goals without taking appropriate action is an exercise in futility. This is one of the pitfalls with helping students set goals. Once set, the process usually stalls because their is an assumption that the student, now that she has a goal, will "go for it" and find a way to achieve it. However, life is full of challenges and reasons to loose sight of your goal. As a result, students tend to be more successful with strategies in place that help them stay resilient in the face of difficulties.

I like to think of resilience as stubbornness directed at a worthwhile cause. Here are some ways to support student resilience.

Think "Why?"

When faced with the temptation to give up, remind yourself of why the goal is important. The result of this reminder will uncover one of two things. Either the goal is still a priority or it has been replaced by a higher priority. If it remains a high priority, keep going. If it has been replaced, move on.

Form a team

If you can find a group that is facing a similar challenge, you may find help by working together. When faced with accomplishing a goal for yourself, it is easier to give up than it is knowing others are also counting on you.

Smaller pieces

Difficult or unfamiliar goals can get overwhelming if you try to accomplish them in broad strokes. Break the actions into smaller and more manageable pieces. This helps you track progress, which is an important part of sticking with your goal.

Release the mantra!

No, the mantra is not some horrible monster. Your mantra is a short phrase that is easy to remember and clearly articulates your goal. For example, if your goal is to do a better job of handing in your homework on time, then you mantra may be something like "My homework; always on time." When you feel like you are moving away from your goal, repeat your mantra a few times. You may find it helps build resilience.

More than "What?" and "How?"

This is advice I often give. Knowing what and how is certainly important, but by adding "when" and "where" to your action plan has shown to increase the likelihood of you following through. Add "When?" and "Where?" to your plan to aid resilience.

A version of this post was originally published on The Thrivapy Blog on April 6, 2013. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

7 Questions For Which Every Student Should Have An Answer

Successful students know plenty, but some of what they know will never appear on a test or exam. While facts and figures are important and have their place in school, every student is not going to know everything. However, if I had to choose a few questions to which every student knew the answer, the list would include the following:

1. What is your purpose as a student?
This question speaks to the student's sense of mission. Generally, students can take two approaches to their role. One is the student as a receiver of an education. The second is a student as a producer of educated work. I advise students to reflect upon and move towards the second.
2. If all barriers to success were removed, what does an ideal school experience look like?
Another foundations* question, this asks students to craft a vision of success. An important element here is the need for specifics in the description. I have found that greater specificity leads to greater chances of success.
3. (2 part question) - What are the barriers to your ideal experience and how can you overcome them?
Of course the ideal is probably out of reach (if it wasn't out of reach, you would have gotten there by now), so facing reality and recognizing the real challenges facing your success is important. Knowing the difficulties you are about to face makes it easier to identify where you may need to work harder, who you may need to get on your team, and what type of help you may need along the way.
4. (2 part question) - What beliefs do you have about being a student and what actions are implied by those beliefs?
This question can be a difficult one to answer. It is difficult because your answer can reveal some inconsistencies in your work which would need to be addressed. For example, if one of your beliefs is that homework is an important part of getting better and getting better is an essential aspect of education, then the implied action is that you would always do your homework. For a student, this could be a difficult conclusion to manage, especially if you realize either you really do not hold that belief or you need to adjust your actions. Sometimes, neither course of action is attractive. However, the exercise of reviewing belief/action continuity can uncover some useful insights into why a student is not as satisfied or successful as they would like to be.
5. What did (will) you do to be a better student today?
I like this question better than, "What happened in school today?" One reason is that this question focuses on growth mindsets. Second, because this question is more focused, you are more likely to get a specific answer instead of "nothing" or another equally less descriptive answer.
6. What did (will) you do to help someone else be a better student today?
This is the previous question's cousin. After reflecting on your own growth, this one turns your attention to others. One of the principles of Thrivapy is relationship building and nothing helps build relationships like sharing your talents, ideas, knowledge, etc. with others. By helping others, we help ourselves. For example, I played baseball from the time I was able to walk  through college. Upon graduating, I became a high school baseball coach (which I continued to do for about 10 years). To this day, I am convinced that I was a better batter while I was coaching players and sharing what I knew than I was when I played.
7. Who are the people you can count on to support your efforts? Who is on your team?
When I played and coached baseball and football, I had a shirt with the word TEAM spelled out in all caps with the meaning "Together Everyone Achieves More" written on the back. While such messages are common in sports, the work of the student is often very much a solo act. Even with increased emphasis on collaboration, students can easily feel alone and unsupported when things begin to get a little tough.
We live in, arguably, the most connected society in the history of the world. Now, more than ever, it is easy to form a community of like-minded and talented people and tap into the collective genius of the group to help get you through difficult times. This is when knowing who is on your learning team and what they can do to help benefits students. This team can include parents, teachers, administrators, friends, other relatives, etc. Having a team in place does not, however, diminish the student's responsibility to act and make satisfactory efforts. What the team does is elevate the potential of the individual by creating a network through which knowledge is created and shared.
These are important questions and are the basis for some of the Thrivapy conversations I have with students. One of the great aspects of these questions is that with very little adjustment, they are as applicable to helping almost anyone, including teachers, find greater clarity, satisfaction, and success in their work.

* The term "foundations" is what I use to include mission, vision, beliefs, and philosophy as a single part of one's ability to find greater purpose, direction, satisfaction, and success. The foundations concept is one of the seven principles upon which Thrivapy works.

This article was originally published on The Thrivapy Blog (4/3/2013).

Friday, April 12, 2013

Helping Students With "Completion Amnesia"

"Completion amnesia" is a term I use to describe a student's insistence on having completed an assignment, but cannot recall any or all of these questions.

1. Where is the assignment?
2. When is the assignment due?
3. Why was the assignment given?

Completion amnesia reaches its peak for many students during the middle school years (grades 6-8, ages 11-13). It is often misunderstood and often (mistakenly) assumed to be a symptom of a lack of effort. This leads to frustration and confusion which, in turn, create a less than satisfactory experience for students, parents, and teachers. There are some ways, though, to minimize the effects of "completion amnesia" that anyone tasked with supporting students can use.

First, be patient. Adults, for the most part, do not struggle as much with such matters as adolescents do. Solutions that are easy for us to understand and use are not always easy for students. This can lead to a great deal of frustration when what appears to be an easy fix always seems just out of reach. Patience and knowing that the solution is easy to us because we have had much more practice can help. There are many times when I hear teachers (and parents) lament having to repeat themselves over and over again. Sure, it is frustrating, but it is also necessary sometimes if the end result is important.

Second, advise the student to slow down and do one thing at a time. Multi-tasking is not always a good thing and with the busy lives students live today, it is easy to see how an eleven year old can feel like she needs to do a lot more than you and I did each day when we were eleven. While the ability to multi-task can help get things done, it also contributes greatly to making careless mistakes. A lack of focus also prevents the student from possibly remembering important key concepts. Slowing down, taking one thing at a time, and being more deliberate in your work can help prevent carelessness and support thorough completion.

Third, add "when" and "where" to each assignment. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard students answer the question, "What do you need to do?" That is certainly important. However, two other questions have shown to help students actually follow through and get the assignment done on time and with good quality. Those questions are, "When are you going to do it?" and "Where will you do it?" If you use an assignment book or have a chart at home, add those two pieces to the equation. You may see better results from needing to answer them. Also, the more specific your answers are to these questions, the better.

Fourth, and finally, allow students to learn from their mistakes. This may be the toughest tip for some because it forces parents and teachers to face the fact that making a few mistakes along the way is where the learning takes place. It is tough because it places the learning process in front of the conversation in place of results and grades. Grades have their place, but can distract a student who is doing something new or difficult from focusing on doing better at the task at hand.

If the student has an idea about how to correct their own "completion amnesia", let them try. Give them feedback and enter into a partnership with the student to help them find what works better form them. After all, it is their work and they need to begin owning it. Ask questions. If you hear, "I don't know" too many times, then offering a specific idea is in order. The goal here is not perfection. The standard for satisfaction should be growth and effort.

"Completion amnesia" is a frustrating part of the school experience for students, parents, and teachers. Be prepared to help by considering these strategies.

This post was originally published on April 1, 2013 at The Thrivapy Blog

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

My 1st eBook, Paying Attention, Now An Amazon Best Seller

Recently, I chose to make a few changes to my first ebook, Paying Attention. I had the cover freshened up, enrolled the book in KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) Select, and changed the price from $0.99 US to a limited time promotional price of $0 - free.

Today, I checked the sales figures and found out that Paying Attention is #1 on the Top 100 free ebooks list for Kindle in the Professional Education Development category.

Thank you very much to all the readers and visitors of this site and my new blog, The Thrivapy Blog.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Strategies For Finishing Your School Year Strong

I learned a long time ago that most people remember the first and last thing they see or hear. That is one reason why it is important to start and finish your school year strong. Even as the school year begins the final phases, you can still develop good habits, realize better results, and go into the summer with positive momentum.
This applies to both students and teachers.
Keeping in mind the importance of a strong finish, here are a few tips to help you end the year on a positive note.
"Low Hanging Fruit"
One way to finish strong is to take a moment to recognize when opportunities are presented for you to get ahead. These opportunities may include assignments that come easy to you, extra time for help from teachers, or a fee professional development event. I use a similar strategy when doing crossword puzzles. Do the easy ones first, then work on the more challenging items. It is sometimes amazing how an item that was very difficult becomes easier after applying your strengths first.
The same applies at the end of the school year. Start with your strengths and grab the "low hanging fruit".
Frequent Review
End of the year work can seem like a long term prospect even if it is only a couple of months away. One strategy that works well with long term (or long term appearing) challenges is to have frequent reviews of progress. This may require the help of a trusted adviser, friend, or colleague. However, by tracking your progress, you can see how far you have gone and how far you have left.
Once you set a goal for the end of the year, schedule frequent reviews to stay on track.

The end of the school year is also very busy. With the coming of Spring and better weather, many outdoor trips and events are planned. Therefore, time may be more scarce that it appears. Keeping that in mind, you may begin to feel overwhelmed by the work and responsibilities facing you as you near the end of school. By having clear priorities, you can fight any anxiety that comes up and maintain focus on the issues that matter most.

Break it Down

Difficult work is more easily addressed when you have a clear sense of what to do. Breaking down these tasks into manageable chunks can clear up time for reflection and adjustment. It also helps you prevent careless errors or mistakes made simply due to lack of experience. If working on an unfamiliar or difficult task, pay close attention to what to do by breaking the item down into smaller components.
Mobilize Your Team
Every teacher and student has a team working with them. This team is made up of all the people one interacts with who has either the experience and/or desire to help. As the end of the year approaches, it is a good idea to check in with and mobilize your team. Reconnecting (or connecting with them at all) can bring a fresh perspective to your work as well as offer up ideas and inspire you to try something new. If you are finding a particular challenge very difficult, your team may be able to provide suggestions and support.
Eyes Forward

Finally, if you are looking to push for a strong finish, keep your eyes forward. There will be time to look back when the school year ends. Just like running a race, looking back can slow you down and lead to some disorientation. Set your goal for the end of the year and stay focused on that goal. Also, try to avoid moving your goal too much. After all, it is much harder to hit a moving target.
Spring brings with it the first signs of a rapidly approaching end to the school year. By using a few simple strategies, you are in great position to end yours with a strong showing.
This post was originally posted on my new blog, The Thrivapy Blog, on March 26, 2013. For more, please visit The Thrivapy Blog and check out Thrivapy's webs site.

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Difference Between Pushing and Shoving

Though your thesaurus (or the one you use online) may not agree, I believe there is a difference between pushing and shoving. This is especially true when supporting students.
When I think about pushing, I imagine an object with potential that needs some assistance to begin moving.  Imagines such as a grocery cart, a rock on a hill, a car that runs out of gas, or a lawnmower come to mind.  Each of these objects have potential energy, but need a push to do their work and move forward.
Shoving, to me, is entirely different.  When I imagine a shove, I think about the inconsiderate person trying to get ahead in line, Black Friday masses attacking the shelves at midnight, or the response of a school yard bully to a new student.
Pushing is cooperation between an object with potential and a force seeking to help that object do its work.
Shoving is selfish.  It is done solely for the benefit of the person shoving.
When you support the potential for students, keep in mind the difference between pushing them and shoving them. Are your requests, activities, lessons, suggestions made to help a student with potential realize that potential or are they made primarily for your comfort.  Are you asking them to push themselves or are you simply taking the status quo and making it more difficult (essentially creating the mirage of pushing)?
With all respect to Merriam-Webster, pushing and shoving are not always synonymous.
This post was originally published on The Thrivapy Blog.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Thoughts On Student Motivation And Ownership

When helping students to take ownership of their work, we often begin to talk about motivation, or more specifically, how to design our work with students in a manner that supports higher levels of motivation. There are two aspects of "motivational design" that can help you. One involves the actual activities you expect students to perform.  The other involves the feedback you provide to students.

The Activities

The vast majority of activities students perform in class require some sort of focused effort. In addition, many activities demand attention to detail, creativity, collaboration, and the expense of some cognitive energy. 

When designing activities that support greater ownership and internal motivation, keep in mind the risks of rewards. This is not to say that positive feedback is not important (more on that later), but if your plan to encourage ownership and motivation is based on rewards, you will likely fall short and potentially set your students back further from owning their work than when they began. Instead, look for ways to incorporate autonomy, mastery, and purpose into the activity. Make sure the purpose is well understood, provide a clear path from activity to better mastery of the concepts, and give students some choice in how they go about delivering the final product.

For more on motivation, read Daniel Pink's Drive: The Surprising Truth Behind What Motivates Us.

The Feedback

In addition to the activities you design, the feedback you give also plays a part in supporting ownership and motivation. Feedback to students, both formal and informal, should be given frequently during activities.  Not only does feedback help keep students on task, but it also can be a significant factor in helping students take ownership and develop internal motivation. Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson's blog post, The Feedback You Need to Be Giving provides a wonderful explanation of how different types of feedback affect different people. Essentially, Dr. Halvorson reports that for experts, being more critical in your feedback is useful and motivational.  For novices, additional praise is the better motivational feedback. In other words, if you are giving feedback to an expert, telling them how to do better next time is more helpful than piling on the praise.  For people just staring out, frequently telling them what they are doing well is more helpful.

There are obvious implications here for giving feedback to students. If you are working with a student who full grasps the concepts and is looking for more of a challenge, feedback that suggests areas for improvement is a good idea. For students unfamiliar with the concepts, begin more positive in your feedback will help them stay motivated to continue trying.

Effective educators support the academic development of their students. The level of "academic maturity" a student has is largely the result of how much she takes ownership of her work and the level of internal motivation she has to do better. Both ownership of work and motivation are topics teachers can support in their classes with some attention to designing appropriate activities and giving appropriate feedback.

A version of this post was originally published on The Thrivapy Blog on March 11, 2013

Monday, April 1, 2013

A Student's Vision of Success

The following post was originally published by me on my new blog, The Trivapy Blog.
When we talk about vision in connection to success, we often hear about it in terms of organizational vision or a leader's vision. Seldom, if ever, are students engaged in conversation about their vision for success.  That is unfortunate. Many students hold a short term, "get me through this week" view of their school work, but just as having a clear vision of success is a vital component to organizational or leadership success, a clear vision of success in school is an important element to student achievement.
So, if helping students create and articulate a vision of success is important, why do parents and teachers seldom engage in that conversation or exercise with their students? There are probably many answers to that question, but the two that I think are probably the most common are:
  1. Limited time
  2. Lack the tools to engage effectively in that conversation
Limited time
For parents, especially in dual income families, time for parenting is limited. A recent report by the Pew Research Center reveals some interesting findings about this topic. In particular, about 25% of mothers and almost 50% of fathers reported that they spend too little time with their children. In addition, mothers in dual income families report an average of 12 hours/week with children and fathers reported an average of only 7 hours/week. This means that in an average dual income family, fathers spend about an hour a day parenting and mothers spend just shy of 2 hours a day parenting.

For teachers, the challenge is similar. If the typical teacher works about 8 hours a day at school (this does not count the hours spent at home or weekends preparing lessons, grading papers, etc.), chances are they are in class teaching for roughly 6 of those hours. Most teachers have a planning period during which students are in class, which is about another 40-60 minutes. That leaves about an hour each day to have lunch, answer phone calls, and attend to other duties (lunch supervision, etc.). In other words, unless the school has a dedicated time for student advising, most teachers have very little time to devote to helping students craft a vision of success.
Lack the tools to engage effectively
Crafting a vision of success requires more than simply telling someone what you hope to achieve. For many students, if you ask them to describe their ideal situation they will talk about grades. I have found this to be the case in almost every conversation I start with students about their vision of success. Students will report that success is getting all A's or A's and B's or no grades below C. However, this fixed mindset description of success is not going to help them focus during tough times. It will not help them deal with adversity or build the resiliency to stay engaged when the inevitable distractions appear.
Developing a vision of success is a process that may require multiple drafts and edits along the way.  Knowing the types of questions to ask or to have as a guide will help keep the exercise on track and serve to support the students' own thinking. After all, a key element to a student's vision of success is that it is THE STUDENT"S vision, not yours. 
What to look for in a good vision of success
So, what can a parent or teacher do in their limited time to help a student create a vision for success? One option is to get help. Certainly, connecting with Thrivapy will help support that work. However, if you are looking for a way to jump start the conversation with a student, here are a few tips.
  1. Try to guide the student to use future oriented language.
  2. Make sure the vision is optimistic.  A lack of "bad" things is no tan optimistic vision.
  3. Include all important parties in the vision.  This includes teachers, parents, friends, siblings, etc.  They all have a role to play in the student's life and success.
Having a clear vision of success is important for businesses, leaders, . . . and students! Engage with them in this important conversation and see if you begin to notice a difference in their approach to school.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Implications of Modern Parenting on Schools?

This slideshow, from the Pew Research Center, highlights the findings of a survey they did on modern parenting.  For educators, the findings are important because they provide insight into the time demands on parents and the potential implications those demands might have on students.

If you want to see the slideshow on the Pew Research Center's web site and read more about the findings, click here.

Modern Parenthood

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Wonderful Summary on Popular Learning Techniques

The lesson you never got taught in school: How to learn!

The above article not only summarizes a number of popular learning techniques, but also rates their effectiveness according to a recently published research project.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Good Reminders About How to Avoid Teacher Burnout

Teacher burnout, especially among new teachers, is a real challenge for many educators.  This is especially true for administrators who spend plenty of time recruiting and retaining talented faculty members.

Angela Maiers recently published this post that includes some excellent reminders about how to avoid new teacher burnout.

Three Ways to Avoid New Teacher Burnout

All Things Change

In July of 2010, I launched The Art of Education in hopes that my ideas, thoughts, and insights would be of use to someone with an interest in education and educational leadership.  What I did not realize at the time was that the one person who would benefit most from this blog was me.

As I write this, I am reflecting on how much I have grown in the past few years.  Not only the upkeep here on The Art of Education, but also:

Now, 500 published posts and over 100,000 visitors later, I find myself at a metaphorical fork in the road.  With the launching of THRIVAPY and preparing to begin a new chapter of my educational leadership career at a different school next year, I have some decisions to make about the future of The Art of Education.  These choices come from my decision to write more often on The Thrivapy Blog and use that space to share my ideas about student success and satisfaction.

The options I decided to choose from are:

  1. Stop writing posts entirely and delete The Art of Education.
  2. Commit to writing less frequently on The Art of Education.
  3. Use The Art of Education mostly to share links to articles I like from around the web.  Basically, I curate good stuff and pass it along on The Art of Education.
  4. Set up The Art of Education to automatically redirect/take viewers to The Thrivapy Blog.
I am not enchanted with option #1.  Frankly, I have invested too much into The Art of Education to simply let it go.  Maybe, I'll feel different later, but for now I am not ready to let it go.

Option #2 is more enchanting, but one thing I know about blogs is that if you do not keep them current, the audience leaves.  I care too much about helping and sharing to go to a random posting schedule.

I like #3 because it allows me to continue to post frequently, share good ideas, and allow me to spend more mental energy on THRIVAPY and The Thrivapy Blog.

Option #4 was, at first, attractive.  However, the more I think about it, the less I like it.  The Thrivapy Blog will certainly be useful to people who come to The Art of Education, but I do not want access to The Art of Education to be cut off.  I am also cognizant of how some people may find it aggravating to click a link to The Art of Education only to be taken to another site.

Therefore, I am going to try option #3 here at The Art of Education for a few weeks to see how it works.  I will still, from time to time, write original pieces here, but most of my writing will be published on The Thrivapy Blog.

I hope this change is useful to you, the reader, as I respect your time very much.  You are invited to join me by visiting and sharing The Thrivapy Blog with your friends and colleagues.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Can Your Students Name The Members Of Their Learning Team?

 If you haven't done so recently (or ever), it may be a good use of time to ask your students about their learning team.

Learning team?

Yes, you know; the people who are tasked with supporting, guiding, directing, and inspiring them.

Oh, Dr. Roddy, you mean their teachers?

Yes and no.

Certainly, a student's teachers are an important part of the learning team, but they do not make up the entire group.

Here are some other possibilities to consider.
  • parents and/or other family members
  • the principal
  • counselors
  • coaches
  • academic advisers
  • former teachers with whom the student stays in touch
  • tutors
  • friends
Ask a student to name the people that are tasked with helping them and see how many they can name.  Do you see a potential relationship between success in school and the number/diversity of students' learning team members?  

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

3 Qualities of Student Goal Setting

The following post was also published on The Thrivapy Blog

Students who set goals have the advantage of knowing what they want to accomplish, which usually includes a clear vision of success. However, simply setting goals is often not enough. Students need help with setting appropriate goals and aligning those goals with an action plan on which they can follow through. Therefore, it is very helpful to provide useful guidance to students about setting goals.

In Thrivapy, I spend quite a bit of time helping students set goals. Once set, we use those goals to evaluate progress and as a foundation for the student's developing vision of success.

This post identifies 3 qualities I look for in good student goals.

1. The goal is challenging.

A challenging goal is one that requires some higher level of focus, concentration, and effort.

2. The goal is specific.

A specific goal can be measured in some way to check for progress.

3. The goal is flexible.

A flexible goal can be adjusted without changing the essence of the overall achievement. For example, the goal if hitting safely one time in a baseball game can be adjusted to two safe hits if you accomplish the goal on your first at bat.

Looking for more help on student goal setting? Check out this presentation I recently gave to a group of teachers.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Learning "For Distance" or "For Time"

 When using a treadmill, one can take two basic approaches.
  1. Run (or walk) for distance.
  2. Run (or walk) for time.
Going for distance means you move until you cover a set distance.  How long it takes you to go that far is not important.  What is important is that you covered a specific distance.

When you go for time, the distance doesn't matter.  You set the workout for a specific amount of time and move until time runs out.  How far you went doesn't matter.

Students are busy.  There is often a great deal of activity in their schedules and, like many people, their lives are managed by a list (written or remembered) of things to do.  There is value in living by lists.  They can help  organize and remind you to do important things.

However, there is also a downside to ONLY living by the list.  Doing so can reinforce a habit of getting things done for the sake of doing them.  In other words, get it done/cross it off the list/move on to something else.  In the case of students, school work is often an item that needs to be done in order to do something else that is MUCH more enchanting to them.  So, the habit of just getting wok done and moving on emerges.

Then, one day, getting it done doesn't work anymore.  Now, the work needs to be done with care, with creativity, with passion, an in a manner that can be shared with others - proudly.

This is when students with whom I work come to me with confused looks about how to get back on track and begin doing better work.  This is when I use the treadmill analogy.

If you are doing your school work to complete it and move on, it is like running for distance.  Cover the mile, read the pages, do the problems, .... and move on.  With a life that is demanding more time for other things, the tendency will be to speed up, cover the mile faster, and do something else.

On the other hand, running for time - doing your work for a set period - doesn't reward speed.  It rewards care, accuracy, and attention to detail.  One strategy I suggest is the 30-30-30 plan.  Do 30 minutes of work, take a break, do another 30 minutes, and repeat once more.  Set a minimum time and if you finish before time is up, go back over your notes, check your work for accuracy, edit that paragraph one more time, etc.

Sometimes, it is useful to get the job done and move on to the next item.  We need to be open to doing that or the work may become overwhelming.  We should also recognize and appreciate the power of slowing down and "learning for time" as well.   

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Two Options For Schools That Care

There are two basic methods to demonstrate your school cares about students.  Schools do both, but your school’s “story” probably leans towards one of these two areas more than the other.

The first way schools can show they care is to offer a breadth and depth of programs to make sure every student is being given the program they need to be satisfied and successful.  In other words, programs are added to fill voids in operations that become apparent.  The mindset behind this method is, “more is better.”  This is what we ask students to do.

This strategy can work, if you are able to support additional programs without creating a new challenge - which can be that the addition of programs changes who you are and whether or not you can support more and maintain an acceptable level of delivery on those programs.  More is only better if more is delivered better and the more more clearly defines who you are.  

The second way is through nurturing relationships and making the connections necessary for students to be satisfied and successful in school.  Connections require sharing.  This includes sharing time, ideas, and feedback.  Connections also require courage.  It is tough to put your work “out there” for an audience to see.  It is even tougher when you do not get the response you were hoping for.  At that point, the learning begins.  How do I improve? What is the next better version of this work?  What adjustments are now clear to me that were not when I tried this time?  

Fixed programs are not worried about connections because they are designed for “plug and play.”  Growth opportunities are dependent on connections because the interactions and changes that emerge from seeking connections are check points for learning.

There is nothing wrong with more, but do you reflect on what type of more you are seeking for your school experience?

Do you need to do more or connect more?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Finding A Place

Finding a place is difficult when your view is limited and the available "space" seems tough to squeeze into.

It can be equally difficult to find a place when the available space is so large that making a decision brings up doubts about the potential for a better space somewhere else.

In other words, if space is very limited, the challenge to finding a place is essentially about comfort.  When space is essentially unlimited, the challenge is "did I choose the best fit?"

I would argue that the latter challenge is becoming, for many of us, much more significant than the former.  We seldom lack "space", but I find that many people fail to act out of uncertainty due to the potential of a better option becoming available "around the next turn."

For students and teachers, the story of education as a foundation for limitless potential and possibility may actually be more true today than ever before because of our connected society.  However, with seemingly limitless opportunities, the fear to act can be more powerful than ever.  This is not to say that we should encourage reckless behavior.  What this does imply, I think, is the need to engage students with chances to take action, make a bold decision, and share their work/ideas with a larger audience than only the teacher.

By supporting students' need to explore the connected nature of the world, receive feedback, and adjust to create better work, teachers help students develop the skills to "find their place" among others who share their passions and interests.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

An Exciting Announcement, Opportunity, and Invitation

I am thrilled to announce that my THRIVAPY web site is in the final stages of completion.  Below is a screen  shot of part of the home page.

THRIVAPY Home Page Screen Shot 

In the meantime, THRIVAPY now has a Facebook Page and Twitter feed to help keep you informed about THRIVAPY news, make connections, and continue the essential conversations about how to support higher levels of satisfaction, purpose, and production in your educational experiences.

THRIVAPY is a service I created to support the needs of students, parents, teachers, and schools to find a better path to achievement.  THRIVAPY is based on 7 principles that are supported by both research and practice.
  1. Your personal foundations (mission, vision, beliefs, and philosophy)
  2. Goal setting
  3. Taking action
  4. Habits
  5. Growth mindsets
  6. Taking ownership
  7. Building relationships
I am happy to discuss how THRIVAPY can work for you.  Please email me at for more information and to make a connection. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

One Story About Schools That Still Applies

The best selling story of school may be in the process of being mythologized, but there is another story we often tell that involves school that is still very much a reality.

Want better for our children (students).

Sometimes, that is expressed with statements like, "I want my child to have the best opportunities."  However, in today's connected and growth oriented world the "best" get better (see The Golden Apple Manifesto).

Better is not just about comparisons.  It is a frame of mind.  It is a commitment to growth and improvement.

Thinking "better" is better thinking.  It empowers the individual to take ownership of her work.  Striving to make a difference by committing to growth, constructively filtering feedback, and improving oneself is a valuable characteristic today and for the foreseeable future.  As a matter of fact, it may be THE most important quality.  However, in order to foster this type of "better" we must engage in practices that accept growth, change, and empowerment as critical pieces to the lessons learned in school

Story hasn't really changed because it is about change.

Teachers, students, and parents interested in developing "better" thinking can contact me for more information about how my THRIVAPY method of student success and satisfaction might work for them.  I am happy to set up a video conference to talk about the various principles of THRIVAPY.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Teaching: Love It Or Leave It?

Yesterday was Valentine's Day.  Without a doubt, the word of the day was, "Love".  This brings to mind a question.

When it comes to being a teacher, working at a particular school, or our opinions of our students, do we really "love it"?

We certainly say we do.  I can't count how many times I have heard a teachers say she "loves teaching", "loves his students", or "loves her school".  The same goes for social media.  How many blog posts, Facebook comments, Twitter messages, etc. speak of the "love" for school/students/teaching?

The problem is the distance between love and hate may not be as far as we would like.  One might even look at a "range of satisfaction" and see something like this:

Love....Like....Acceptable....No Opinion....Prefer Not....Dislike....Hate

Not far, is it?  As a matter of fact, it took only about 3 inches to go from "Love" to "Hate".

Joking aside, in the course of your work as an educator, you are going to feel that range from time to time.  Every day is not going to be one you "love" and every day is not going to one you "hate".  The key, I guess, is to look at your work and see where it falls when you examine it overall.  Do you generally feel on the love or hate side of the equation?  I might even go so far as to suggest that for teachers, the "no opinion" option falls on the "hate" side.

On the other hand, teaching is not easy.  In order to do it well, one often has to:
  • endure some pain
  • make sacrifices
  • put the needs of others above their own
  • accept that there will be good days and bad
  • all while expecting little, if any, reciprocation from our students

That sounds like love to me.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Connections, Classrooms, and Technology

Putting a tablet, laptop, or smart phone in the hands of students in a class does not make the class connected.  Sure, in the sense that you have a WiFi signal connected to the devices, sure there is a connection, but not the type of connection that matters, ultimately.

The connection we seek is the type that emerges from our work being shared with others to create knowledge and transform the experience of someone other than ourselves.  The connection we seek produces an emotional response and strengthens our relationships.  This connection can be with the teacher, a class mate, a parent, a child in a school in another country, etc.

These are the connections that will serve our students in their futures.  More than communication skills, connection skills are vital.  Not just in the future, but today.

Having available technological resources enhances connections, supports the production of more enchanting work, leverages communication mediums to widen the range of connections.  The goal of technology integration should be to build connections.

Here is a question about integrating technology in your class.

"Does the use of technology to ____ in class help my students learn how to build connections?"

Monday, February 11, 2013

Available now - The Golden Apple Manifesto For Kindle

It started as a Google presentation.  Then, it was made into a free .pdf eBook.  Now, for Kindle readers, The Golden Apple Manifesto is available on Amazon for only $0.99 US.

As an added bonus, for a limited time my two other Kindle books, Foundations: Examining Vision, Beliefs, Mission, and Philosophy and Paying Attention: Thoughts on Communication in Schools are also priced at $0.99 US.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Golden Apple Manifesto - the .pdf eBook Version

Recently, I put together a presentation called The Golden Apple Manifesto.  So far, the response to that post has been very good.  Therefore, I have put a free .pdf version of The Golden Apple Manifesto together.  You can access it by clicking here.

For Kindle readers, I am working on the Kindle version.  Once it is available, I will make an announcement here.

The Golden Apple Manifesto is a short book (approximately 25 pages) with a big message.  It is an invitation to embrace 10 beliefs about teaching that can transform how you approach instruction in the 21st century.  What may take you about 10 minutes to read could make a lasting influence on your philosophy of education.

The book is NOT a "How To" guide to teaching.  Instead, The Golden Apple Manifesto presents 10 beliefs about teaching along with supporting comments and reflections for you to consider.

Give it a read and let me know what you think.

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